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Just Say No to "60 Minutes"

Oct 31, 2016 09:40AM ● Published by Leland Rucker

I don’t know if you caught 60 Minutes last night, but it included “Just Say ‘No’ to Recreational Pot?,” with Dr. Jonathan LaPook supposedly reporting on the effects of marijuana legalization in Colorado, specifically Pueblo County, where a ban on its thriving growing operations there is on the ballot next week.

Though I stopped thinking of 60 Minutes as a serious news source when Mike Wallace died (and the network includes a Wallace report from decades ago on illegal grows in Kansas on its website), CBS has done some decent reporting on cannabis, specifically about seniors using marijuana instead of pharmaceutical drugs. But Dr. LaPook takes us back to the dawn of the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon convinced Congress that marijuana was the biggest threat facing the US and classified it as a Schedule One drug.

Instead of perhaps talking with at least one person (there are thousands to choose from) who uses marijuana medically or one person who uses it recreationally, or even mentioning any medical benefits whatsoever, LaPook trots out the usual suspects. He finds an emergency-room doctor in Pueblo who says that he’s finding that some infants test positive for cannabis when they are born, that more teenagers are coming into emergency rooms after marijuana “overdoses” and that there are concerns about stoned teens behind the wheel.

Never mind that LaPook finally admits near the end that this is all anecdotal stuff, and that there are no data to confirm that more under-aged people are toking and driving or that more teens are using cannabis than before legalization. (I could have show him some pretty good data that say neither of those things is happening.)

Then he talks with a sheriff who explains that though they “were told the black market would go away,” law enforcement is still busting illegal grows that have organized-crime connections.

Nobody has ever said that the black market would just vanish – it has been active for more than half a century, after all – and at least part of the pot diversion elsewhere might have something to do with those states keeping it illegal. But we don’t hear that.

Of course, he does mention the dangers of today’s higher THC levels, again completely anecdotal, and a healthcare professional explains that marijuana stays in the system longer than alcohol, which she admits makes it more difficult to determine if a person is impaired or just tests positive.

Finally, Gov. John Hickenlooper, the only voice of reason in the entire 15 minutes, explains that though he suggests to other states considering legalization to be deliberate in their approach, legal marijuana is a complete improvement over what it replaced. But after a leading question about whether legalizing is “tricky,” LaPook manages to make Hick look like he could be a doubter.

Five states are considering legalizing cannabis and ending the stupidity of the drug war. More than half of all Americans support legalization, and even more support medical marijuana. All in all, a great opportunity wasted, and yet more proof of the decline of a once-formidable news program. There’s even a Nancy Reagan reference in the headline. That should have been warning enough. Just say no to 60 Minutes.

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